Actors portray a scene during the Trail of Tears Drama, which took place at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s amphitheater from 1969 to 2005 in Park Hill, Okla. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO

Cherokee amphitheater once Trail of Tears Drama site

Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO An audience attending the Trail of Tears Drama in 1989 listens to pre-show entertainment. The drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
05/29/2013 07:58 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tonia Hogner Weavel is an alumna of the original Trail of Tears Drama that began playing in June 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center. She was the principal dancer for it in 1974 and 1976.

Weavel, who is now the CHC’s education director, said the drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff. It was written by Kermit Hunter and continued the dramatic story performed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians titled “Unto These Hills,” which is still shows today in Cherokee, N.C.

“It (“Unto These Hills”) was the first half of the removal, and ours was after we (Cherokee people) reached Indian Territory,” she said.

In an unusual twist, Weavel said the amphitheater where the drama was performed until 2005 was designed to fit the script. “Usually the theater is built and you just work with what you have but in this instance the theater was designed to fit the show.”

Charles “Chief” Boyd, an architecture graduate at the time, designed the amphitheater after traveling to New York City to research ideas with CHC co-founder Col. Martin Hagerstrand. The theater was designed using a “thrust stage or extended into the audience,” was steeply graded and fan-shaped.

“It was built to form an intimacy with the play. Even though it was a great outdoor amphitheater, it was designed to be as intimate to the stage as possible,” Weavel said.

The audience was never more than 75 feet from the stage, she added. And because of the steepness of the amphitheater, an audience of 1,800 could look down on the stage and actors.

“There was not a bad seat in the house, literally. For the most part you didn’t miss anything in any seat in the house,” Weavel said.

At the back of the main stage was a “mountaintop” with natural foliage. Behind the stage were dressing rooms. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage.

Another impressive feature was it was the first outdoor theater with an air-cooled stage. On the stage sides were air-conditioning vents that blew across the stage, which Weavel said was necessary on hot nights.

Also, the stage’s design and theater served another purpose. Weavel said in the old days of the theater, actors did not use amplification devices to project their voices and needed “theater voices” that could project to the back of the stage.

“So we didn’t use any kind of microphone system because the theater was built in such a way as to carry the sound up,” she said. “We did have music and we did have narration, so there was a sound system.”

Later, actors used wireless microphones when they became more available and easier to use.

“The theater was a grand place. It was at a time when the technology we have today was not in place, so our entertainment was self-imposed. Like the drive-in theater that has gone by the wayside, amphitheaters have done the same. It’s much easier to sit in your air-conditioned home and dial up a movie on Netflix...than it is to take the effort to get in your car and go sit out in maybe 95-degree heat and make the effort to go see a show,” Weavel said.

She said ultimately that is why the drama stopped. Dwindling attendance along with the cost of putting on the drama made it impossible to continue.

“One thing that has not died is the people’s memories and their experiences with the Trail of Tears Drama from 1969 until it closed in 2005. It set wonderful memories and it allowed people to learn more about Cherokee culture,” she said.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
07/30/2016 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Auditions for a short film titled “Nanyehi,” which tells the story of Nancy Ward, is will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 13-14 at the Cherokee Nation’s Osiyo Room on the Tribal Complex. Officials from the musical, “Nanyehi: The Story of Nancy Ward” are hosting a casting call for the film. Ward was honored as a Cherokee war woman in the 18th century and later became known as a peacemaker during the American Revolution. Filming will take place on Sept. 18-20. CN citizen and award-winning songwriter and recording artist Becky Hobbs and playwright Nick Sweet wrote the musical. Hobbs, who is a direct descendant of Nancy Ward, has performed in more than 40 countries and has over 20 chart records. Hobbs was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2015. To secure a specific time to audition send a headshot and resume to <a href="mailto: casting@hollyricefilms.com">casting@hollyricefilms.com</a>. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.hollyricefilms.com/casting" target="_blank">www.hollyricefilms.com/casting</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/29/2016 12:00 PM
VANCOUVER, Wash. – Three Cherokee women were recently named 2016 National Artist Fellowships by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Cherokee Nation citizen Kelli Jo Ford received her fellowship for literature, while fellow CN citizen Brenda Mallory received hers for visual arts. Also receiving one for visual arts was Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Luzene Hill. The honor includes a monetary award that provides additional support for Native artists to explore, develop and experiment with original and existing projects. Fellows also work with their communities and share their culture in generous ways. The National Artist Fellowships are made possible with support from the Ford Foundation, Second Sister Foundation and the generosity of arts patrons. Each year the NACF selects 16 people in five categories from a national open call of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artist applicants who are reviewed by a panel of art peers and professionals. “NACF fosters and supports the vision, creativity and innovation of Native artists in a number of disciplines that feature the ongoing vibrancy and range of artistic careers and accomplishments across the U.S.,” NACF Director of Programs Francene Blythe said. “We are honored to award this year’s national fellows. They, too, continually raise the visibility of Native arts and cultures to higher levels of achievement, excellence and endeavor.” For more more about the National Artist Fellows and NACF, visit: <a href="http://www.nativeartsandcultures.org" target="_blank">www.nativeartsandcultures.org</a>.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
07/21/2016 09:00 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen MaryBeth Timothy, of MoonHawk Art, recently donated four ceramic tiles to the Cherokee Phoenix for its third quarterly giveaway. The four tiles are 6 inches by 8 inches featuring a bear, eagle, wolf and horses. Timothy, who has created art most of her life, said she didn’t become a professional artist until age 30. “I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I can remember going back in my parent’s desk and finding pictures that I’d drawn when I was really little. I remember in kindergarten winning first place for a Halloween drawing that I’d done,” she said. “I started professionally I guess when I was around 30. And started painting about that time as well.” Timothy said she and her family had always taken an interest in the arts. “My mother’s pretty creative. She’s always done crafty things with us since we were little, and we’re all very musically inclined as well. I’ve just always been drawn to it, that and nature,” she said. Although she didn’t grow up in the Cherokee culture, she said it’s always been something she wanted to learn more about. As an adult, she said art helped her do that. “I didn’t grow up traditional or around our people until I was an adult, and I had that yearning to learn about our history and culture, our heritage, and I think in learning that it has also inspired that part of my art as well,” Timothy said. She said meeting influential people helped to further her artistic career. “Betty Cramer-Synar and her daughter Addie Synar. They really were my kick to continue and to increase my knowledge on it and to venture out into other mediums as well,” she said. Timothy said she’s experienced several art media, including drawing with graphite, pencil, pen and ink and acrylics. She has also worked with watercolor pencils, colored pencil, oil and she sculpts. More recently, she and her husband applied for a loan through the CN to print on ceramic tiles, coffee mugs and T-shirts. “We do all of the original art, and then we do our own printing as well,” she said. “We are Moonhawk Art LLC now. So we just became an LLC a few months ago.” Timothy and her husband’s artwork is for sale online and at craft shows and powwows, but they also take commission jobs. They also continue to work regular jobs, she said. MaryBeth works for the Five Civilized Tribes Museum and John for Bacone College, both in Muskogee. Entries for the Cherokee Phoenix quarterly giveaways are obtained by people donating to the Cherokee Phoenix elder fund or buying a subscription or merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent. The third drawing will be on Oct. 1. The tile featuring a bear is titled “Bear Clan.” “Ancient Glory” is the tile with the eagle. “PeekaBoo” is the one with a wolf, and “Seven” or “GaLiQuoGi” is the tile with horses. For more information regarding the giveaways call Samantha Cochran at 918-207-3825 or Justin Smith at 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto: samantha-cochran@cherokee.org">samantha-cochran@cherokee.org</a> or <a href="mailto: justin-smith@cherokee.org">justin-smith@cherokee.org</a>. For more information on MoonHawk Art visit <a href="http://www.moonhawkart.com" target="_blank">www.moonhawkart.com</a> or email <a href="mailto: moonhawkart@gmail.com">moonhawkart@gmail.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/19/2016 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Throughout history, Cherokees have always placed a priority on their relationship with the Earth and emphasized the importance of being good stewards of the land. A new exhibit at the Cherokee National Prison Museum showcases that relationship while featuring Cherokee agricultural practices from pre-removal to present day. “Of the Earth” runs July 15 through Nov. 1. Free admission will be offered on opening day. The exhibit features information on crops, including corn, squash and beans. These crops are also known as the Three Sisters, which are historically the most important throughout Cherokee history. Other crops include pumpkins, apples, grapes, peaches and wild onions. The Cherokee National Prison Museum was selected to host the exhibit, as it once featured a large garden where prisoners tended to its care. This was an important aspect of the prison, as it was used for prisoner reform and teaching life skills, as opposed to punishment. The prison was the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. It housed sentenced and accused prisoners from throughout the territory. The interpretive site and museum give visitors an idea about how law and order operated in Indian Territory. The site features a working blacksmith area and reconstructed gallows, exhibits about famous prisoners and daring escapes, local outlaws and Cherokee patriots, jail cells and more. It is located at 124 E. Choctaw St. Cherokee Nation museums are open from10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For information, call 1-877779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
07/18/2016 09:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Seven women came to the Cherokee Heritage Center on July 9 to transform flat reed material into baskets under the instruction of artist and former Miss Cherokee Danielle Culp. CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel said the center hosts seven to eight art classes annually to promote Cherokee culture. “The idea is for students to have a taste of Cherokee culture and experience basket making, pottery making, stickball making, Cherokee clothing. We do a variety of things,” she said. “Today, the flat reed class is learning to weave like our ancestors did. The material used in flat reed weaving for today’s class is commercial reed, but our ancestors would have used river cane or split hardwoods. Our goal for today is (for students) to leave here with a small, finished basket so the students understand the process of beginning and finishing.” CHC cultural art classes usually only have 12 to 15 students to allow for one-on-one attention by the instructor and so that students have a good experience with the instructor, Weavel added. She said some students leave the classroom and continue to learn about the crafts. “The students are encouraged to continue the craft if they choose to do so,” she said. “We have had a student that has come to a class and ended up entering our Homecoming Art Show, which is a show just for Cherokee people.” Cherokee Nation citizen Valerie Brown, of Bixby, said she has taken the reed basket class three times because she enjoys learning more about her Cherokee heritage. “I wasn’t raised around Cherokee culture, but it was important to my mom. So after I lost her I thought ‘now’s the time to start learning more about where I’m from,’” she said. Brown said she’s a little slow in making baskets, but she enjoys working on them. She said after three classes she now has a feel for how the basket should be made and it’s easier for her to follow the instructor. “Whether I have any talent for it or not, I like doing it,” Brown said. “That’s why I’ve taken the round reed class so many times. Each time it’s a beginner’s class. Each time I learn more. Where I work they have an art contest for just the employees, and I’ve entered that and won a prize.” She said she has basket-making materials in her living room and makes small baskets in her spare time. “It’s relaxing. It’s just the feeling of working with my hands and creating something. I’ve always done crafts and things, and to me this is just an elevated level. It’s not just a craft. It just feels like more,” she said. Weavel said the classes also serve as a preservation tool because some students continue practicing what they learn and share with others. For more information, call 918-456-6007, email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a> or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/14/2016 04:00 PM
BRATTONSVILLE, S.C. – The movie “Cameron” follows British Indian agent Alexander Cameron (David Reed) on the run from militiamen hell-bent on his capture. Rumors throughout the Carolina backcountry claim Cameron is inciting Cherokee warriors to attack frontier settlers as a way of restoring British rule. Cameron had sent letters warning settlers of impending Cherokee attacks, but the letters backfire. Torn between his responsibility as a father, honor to his king, loyalty to the Cherokees and duty to his conscience, Cameron sinks deeper into turmoil, as he realizes his noble attempts to save innocent women and children have become his undoing. “The idea for Cameron emerged after my study of 18th-century letters written by Alexander Cameron, Indian agent among the Cherokee. In my eight years of research and writing ‘A Demand of Blood,’ Cameron and his Cherokee ally Dragging Canoe evolved as central characters in the epic narrative of the Cherokee war of 1776, and it is this war within a war that is the backdrop for ‘Cameron,’ an untold story of the American Revolution,” said Nadia Dean, the movie’s writer, producer and director. Dean is the author of “A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776” and a veteran broadcast and print journalist. In 2014, she wrote and produced the short documentary “Cherokee Diplomacy in South Carolina: 1777” for the Museum of the Cherokee in South Carolina. Telling the story of the Cherokees in the American Revolution and of Alexander Cameron’s extraordinary saga is an endeavor that has spanned the past 12 years of her life, she said. “Alexander Cameron, the liaison between the Cherokee and British Crown, especially intrigued me. His world was part Scot, part Cherokee and part British sovereignty. The script was driven by my fascination with Cameron’s predicament. I asked myself, ‘How would I feel if my efforts, out of a sense of honor, became my undoing?’” she said. “The most emotionally charged music I composed for the film is ‘Beloved No More,’ which expresses the gravity of Cameron’s loss – loss of home, loss of authority and loss of honor.” Dean said she was raised primarily in Columbia, South Carolina, with frequent stays on her grandfather’s North Carolina mountain farm. “My ancestors had lived in the Smoky Mountains since the early 18th century. In 1776, on their way to burn Cherokee towns, 2,500 militiamen, including my six-generation grandfather, marched over what later became my mother’s childhood farm. My half-Cherokee cousin and I spent many summer days exploring the creeks, woods and waterfalls that would later be depicted in the book and film ‘Cold Mountain.’ That ‘A Demand of Blood’ and ‘Cameron’ involves my husband’s Cherokee ancestors, and some of my own, in a profound way ties me to this stirring story of the American Revolution,” Dean said. While writing her book and the movie, she said she became intrigued by the strong friendship between Cameron and Cherokee war chief Dragging Canoe and their ability to survive the crushing blow of the American Revolution. In late 2013, Dean received a grant from the Graham Foundation of South Carolina to finance the film. Several casting directors advised her that the role of Dragging Canoe would be challenging to cast, and it was. After exhausting talent possibilities on the East Coast, Dean contacted a casting agent out West and found Jon Proudstar, who has appeared in several films. The 37-minute movie was filmed in Brattonsville, South Carolina, and Macon County, North Carolina. “As I say in the author’s note of ‘A Demand of Blood,’ stories are elemental to the human experience. We need stories. We need them because they are what connect us to each other. And it seems the ones that connect us deeply usually depict a man’s dark night of the soul and his eventual triumph over it,” Dean said. “As I ruminated about Cameron’s sudden loss of liberty, I realized that at the deepest part of our humanity, personal liberty proves to be our greatest need. The film’s story raises the question: Is it possible to fight for my own freedom, without depriving someone else of theirs?” For more information, visit <a href="http://www.CameronTheFilm.com" target="_blank">www.CameronTheFilm.com</a> or email <a href="mailto: Cherokee1776@gmail.com">Cherokee1776@gmail.com</a>.